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WASHINGTON – Sen. Charles E. Schumer launched an effort this week to prevent Medicare reimbursement cuts to ambulance service providers that are set to take effect Jan. 1 unless Congress acts.

Ambulance companies argue that the reimbursement cut, though only 2 percent for urban operators and 3 percent for those in rural areas, would hurt them deeply because they operate on such thin margins.

“Medicare is the biggest payer that we have,” said Walt Reisner of Trans Am Ambulance in Olean. “A two to three percent cut would be devastating. It would result in our having increased response times and put life and limb at risk.”

To prevent that from happening, Schumer, D-N.Y., said he was fighting to eliminate the cut as Congress draws up larger legislation this week aimed at preventing cuts to other Medicare providers as well.

“In many cases, the quality of ambulance service and the technology on board is literally a matter of life and death, so I will spare no effort to see through the extension of these funds for upstate ambulance providers,” Schumer said.

In Western New York, $398,744 in Medicare reimbursements are at risk in 2014. Ambulance providers in the region could lose $2.3 million between 2014 and 2018.

As the Senate considers the larger bill to fix Medicare reimbursements, Schumer is offering an amendment that would lock in the payments that ambulance companies receive for the next five years.

Such certainty in federal reimbursements would allow ambulance companies to invest in cutting-edge medical technology, Schumer said.

email: jzremski@buffnews.com